v. 1. I charge thee, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
v. 2. Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
v. 3. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
v. 4. and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables.
v. 5. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
The office with the greatest responsibilities in the world is that of a Christian pastor. It is for that reason that Paul's love for Timothy constrains him to emphasize the need of faithfulness once more: I earnestly adjure thee before God and the Lord Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and dead, and His revelation and His kingdom. On account of the high dignity of the ministerial office the apostle is not satisfied with a mere reminder of its obligations. He solemnly adjures his young coworker in the presence of God and of the Lord Jesus as invisible witnesses, and yet present in person. The great Ruler over all things and He who in a special sense of the word is the Lord and King of His Church are jealously guarding the interests of Christ's kingdom. Purposely the apostle describes Christ as Him that will judge the living and the dead, who is designated as the great Judge at the last day, this power having been imparted to His human nature, to be exercised on the day appointed by God, Joh_5:22-27. All men will have to appear before the judgment-throne of Christ, both the living and the dead, the dead being raised from their graves and the living being transformed. All this will happen in accordance with the appearance and the kingdom of Christ. While His life, ministry, suffering, and death was according to His humiliation, the exercise of His office as Judge of the world will be in the form of the exalted Son of Man, of the great King of kings and Lord of lords. His work as Judge will thus agree with the majesty which was imparted to His human nature.
Upon the basis of this knowledge the admonition of the apostle could not fail to make an impression upon him: Preach the Word, keep at it in season, out of season; reprove, admonish, rebuke, with all long-suffering and teaching. All other considerations are secondary in comparison with that one great necessity that the Word, the one Word of eternal truth, be preached. Every other method of building up a congregation, of working faith in the hearts of men, is destined to be a failure from the beginning. The preaching of the Word of God's grace must always remain the foremost function of the Christian preacher and pastor. And it makes no difference whether the time seems opportune or not, within the limitations of Mat_7:6; Mat_10:16. When the welfare of the souls and the glory of the Lord demands it, when and wherever it is the proper time to apply the Word of God, the minister should do his duty, whether that seems to be fitting or not, opportune or not, to the hearers. The proper spiritual wisdom will tell the pastor when the best time has come, even if the weakness of his human nature is not eager for work of this kind. He should reprove every form of error and sin, both as to doctrine and life; he should rebuke sin in every form, even when it would seem that the transgressors are unwilling to show proper sorrow; he should charge or exhort the parishioners, inspire in them a love for all that is good and well-pleasing to God. All this is not to be done in carnal zeal, but with true patience and long-suffering, with that quiet insistence upon the Word of God which carries conviction with it. It is self-evident, of course, that a pastor will neither deny as much as one tittle of Scriptures for the sake of a false peace, nor will he neglect to make use of all kindness and fairness in dealing even with obstinate cases.
Patience is all the more necessary in the holy office since the future is sure to bring peculiar difficulties: For there will be a time when they will not offer their ears to wholesome doctrine, but according to their own lusts they will accumulate teachers, having an itching hearing. This is certainly a characteristic of the day and age in which we are living. People do not care for wholesome doctrine, for the sound teaching of the Word of God, they are impatient with the "old-time religion. " The doctrine of the vicarious satisfaction through the blood of Jesus Christ is called "blood theology," faithful admonitions and warnings are denounced as antiquated pietism. People of this stamp therefore try to suit their erring fancies, try to please their own desires by heaping up, by accumulating teachers to themselves; not satisfied with one strange preacher, they will be on the lookout for many, as the notion strikes them. They run from one church, from one evangelist, from one exhorter to the other. Instead of doctrinal sermons they want amusement, instead of the wholesome food which their souls need they want the light confectionery that too many religious mountbanks are only too willing to offer them. Their hearing is never satisfied, they are always aching and itching for something new.
The result is inevitable: And from the truth indeed they will turn away then ears, but to fables they shall be turned. That is the result of this everlasting itch for something new, of the aversion for the truth of God's Word. Their ears lose the ability to enjoy proper instruction: they are so absolutely lost in the maze of their various errors that they are unable to find their way back to the truth. They forsake the right way which leads to salvation, and seek satisfaction in fables and myths, in various unedifying speculations. It is hard indeed to understand how people that have had the sound spiritual food of evangelical preaching can find any enjoyment in the shallow and insipid material which human wisdom can at best offer, but it seems to be a part of God's judgment upon those that despise His Word: God finally gives them up to the foolishness of their own mind that they can no longer know the truth. See Pro_28:9; Jer_2:13; Jer_17:13.
Over against such foolishness Timothy should maintain his sound common sense in spiritual matters: Thou, however, be vigilant, suffer the evil, perform the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. Just at the time when the whole world seems to be going mad, when people in general seem to be under the influence of some evil power, some strange intoxication, then the Christians, and especially the true pastors, should maintain their vigilant self-possession; with clearness of view and judgment use all possible caution. At the same time one must be prepared to suffer wrong at such a period, in such a crisis. For every one that refuses to join in the general giddiness must expect enmity and tribulation on account of his stand. The charge against the faithful Christians that they are the enemies of human society is made also in our days. Simply and quietly, therefore, the Christian preacher and teacher will continue in his work as evangelist, he will preach the Gospel, he will make every attempt to spread the message of salvation in Christ Jesus. Thus Timothy, who had for many years been such an evangelist or missionary, thus every pastor will fulfill his ministry, will perform that which the duties of his office lay upon him. There must be no neglect of duties, since the utmost faithfulness is expected of the servant of the Word, such as must be learned daily in the school of the Holy Spirit.